- The Tsunami
The sound of urgent footsteps and panicked voices jolted Roxanne awake. Surrounded by empty seats, she sat alone in a bus that could accommodate seventeen people. Outside, the other occupants were busy packing up their belongings as they dismantled the beachside campsite.
What’s going on?
She lazily stretched her body and tried to shake off the remnants of sleep that clung to her. It had been a hectic week, and she could finally breathe a sigh of relief, free from the stress of her college final exams.
As she slid the door open, the brown-skinned girl with a small frame stepped on the chilly white sand as it nestled against her bare feet. Simultaneously, the revitalized sea breeze blew her kinky hair backward. At first, she was focused on the bustling group, but then something more magical caught her attention.
The beach had an otherworldly charm once darkness descended. Heaven’s Cove was a peaceful spot where campers enjoyed nighttime gatherings by the calm waves under the twinkling sky. No wonder she drifted off into a peaceful slumber, but there was a lingering sense of someone’s presence before she dozed off.
“Don’t forget the case of drinks behind the almond tree.”
The sound of a man’s voice reached Roxanne’s ears, but it was not the familiar one she expected. Among the group, her eyes darted across the crowd and hoped to spot her boyfriend. The single floodlight cast a dim glow over the vast area, which made it nearly impossible to discern anyone’s features. So Roxanne squinted and fixated on individual faces. Despite this, she noticed Kevin, James’ closest friend. He folded up the white plastic table designated for card games.
Something important must have happened for the hiking club to abandon their meticulously planned weekend. It took them months of coordination and organization to make this a reality.
Roxanne weaved her way through the bustling crowd. They appeared nonchalant, tossing raw ingredients and camping equipment in all directions. Some even launched objects toward each other. As she maneuvered the crowd, she had to dodge couples hauling coolers and lugging bags. They forcefully tossed the items into the back of the navy blue bus, which shook. Then they returned for more.
These weren’t her friends. They were James’s which motivated her to remain calm. She almost lost it, though, when a boy with freshly styled locs swung a large sack over his shoulder. The bag collided with Roxanne’s hip, threw her off balance, and caused her to tumble onto the compact sand.
Am I invisible here?
She muttered a few curses under her breath; the words hung in the air even after the assailant had already left. The culprit committed the act and then walked away as if nothing had happened. As a result, she unleashed an onslaught of profanities.
Roxanne pressed down on her hips tightly and desperately attempted to ease the excruciating shock that consumed her. Lost in her actions, she was unaware of the boy who silently approached from behind.
“Are you okay?”
The rumbled voice made her twist her body, which increased the agony in her aching hip as she remained seated. However, when she looked up, her eyes met those of a tall, dark, and handsome boy. This instantly tamed her unrest. Despite the seared ache, Roxanne uttered, “I’ll be fine. I’m in a little pain, but it’s already passing.”
“Great. Because we need to leave pronto.” James announced before he continued on his path to pack the folded chairs.
By the time Roxanne caught up to him, he stuffed the last chair in front of a duffle bag. The rear of their Nissan was almost filled now, although half their belongings were in a heap underneath an almond tree whose roots protruded above the glittering sand. It took them several trips to transport their supplies to the secluded beach, and it would have taken several trips to remove them. The campers knew this, yet still overloaded the bus.
“What’s going on?” Roxanne strained her voice over the disruptive noises. “Why are you packing like there’s no tomorrow?”
“Well, if we stay here, there might be no tomorrow,” James spoke, but his focus remained on his task.
Why won’t he just tell me what’s going on? Roxanne felt a pressure building in her chest.
“STOP.” She grabbed his shoulders and turned him towards her. “Tell me what is happening.”
“Sous-Marin is erupting. The entire north coast is on a tsunami warning.”
Sous-Marin, an underwater volcano off the main island, had been a constant threat long before Roxanne’s birth. Now and then she erupted, which subtly shook the ground. Not even the most powerful earthquake in Grenada’s history could be blamed on her. So, although everyone was aware of her existence, they saw her as a negligible danger.
A few times, her eruption caused the crater lakes on the island to bubble, and the Sulfur springs became too dangerous for use. They boiled, releasing a putrid odor reminiscent of rotten eggs and the foulest substances known to man. However, these were extraordinary circumstances that unfolded several years ago. Since then, the underwater volcano only emitted a low rumbling sound that unsettled the nearby occupants.
Why would this time be different?
“You’re joking, right?” Her fingers tightened around the fraying threads of hope and prayed James was not serious. Yet the sharpness in his voice did not waiver.
“I wish I was. Be ready for when we leave.” Then he was gone.
Roxanne stood there. She gazed at the horizon for what felt like an eternity before she rushed back to the bus. There, she transferred her important possessions from her travel bag into the backpack. She swapped her purse and her Ventolin inhaler. A pack of nuts was the last thing she added before zipping to where her water bottle interfered. The remaining items were disposable, so she tossed them onto the heap under the almond tree.
“Get on the bus.”
She turned around just in time to see her boyfriend jump into the driver’s seat.
“Why are we taking the bus? It can’t make it up the hill with the load.”
“That’s why James is driving. He’s the best driver here,” announced a light-skinned girl seated at the back.
Roxanne looked at the other passengers as her grip on the bag strap tightened.
This is a bad idea.
“We don’t have time for this. Get in.” She noticed a sharp edge to her boyfriend’s voice, a harshness she had never heard before. So, despite her apprehension, she took her place as the engine revved and filled the air with a low rumble.
It would take a lot for the loaded transport to climb the pitched strip.
As the vehicle sped up and began its journey uphill, most hands gripped the seat in front. Roxanne’s heart raced, and she shut her eyes and braced herself for what lay ahead. She struggled to calm her overwhelmed emotions as the bus picked up speed.
Halfway up the hill, the transport stalled, and the engine sputtered in frustration.
“Reverse and try again.” Someone shouted.
“No!” Roxanne exclaimed. “Let’s just leave the bus. We’ll be safer on top, even on foot.”
She didn’t wait for a response as she gripped the door handle and pulled it open with a thud. Roxanne exited the bus and did not bother to close it behind her, she assumed others would do the same.
They did not.
Her face flushed with embarrassment, and a hint of annoyance lingered in her mind. Nevertheless, she ignored the others’ opinions on her thoughts about the situation. All except for one.
To this day, Roxanne still wonders if James’s avoidance of eye contact was because of guilt as he left her or his intense focus as he reversed.
There was a sense of resignation as the bus meandered down the slope while its wheels screeched faintly. She noticed how the scenery suddenly transformed. The waters receded, revealing a vast expanse of sand, broken shells, and coral, an unusual sight she had never witnessed before. The sounds of the bus faded away, leaving behind a profound stillness on the beach. Without the familiar symphony of cricket chirps, a sense of stillness settled in the air.
This took her by surprise – how had she missed it before?
“Tsunami. Get out of there!” she screamed and pointed with no restraint. This would have been a remarkable sight if it weren’t for the lurking danger.
The sea wall shattered the tranquility of the evening. It charged towards the shore with the fury of a vengeful pirate, hungry for conquest. The deafened roar echoed through the air and threatened to rupture her eardrum.
Roxanne fell to her knees, a final silent plea for James to reconsider their plan to drive to safety.
As the tsunami neared, her heart raced and her breath grew more erratic. Panic set in and Roxanne’s voice reverberated, urging James to run towards her. She screamed with all her might, her tone raw and desperate, but it was to no avail. In the blink of an eye, the wave charged at the bus, swallowed the hiking club, and left Roxanne stunned.
Her lungs deflated like empty balloons, unable to alleviate the pain in her heart. For what felt like an eternity, she let her feet give in to the immense burden of her body and wept without restraint.
James was gone. They were all gone. Yet the screams of their last moments still echoed in her head as a haunting melody. Her wails became louder and competed with the sound of their executioner until she could scream no more.
Get up. Get up!
She had to put in extra effort to stand and felt the strain on her muscles. Despite Roxanne’s desire to hold on to James, it would be illogical to remain there any longer. Several hours had passed since the sun had risen, which revealed the devastation that the tsunami had caused on the other side of the hill. The road was submerged, with only the tops of street signs visible.
Roxanne knew another way back to the nearest houses, but navigation through the dense trees proved to be a challenge. She was considerably intimidated as someone who had never done it before. However, the sun’s position reminded her that time was running out, so she pushed herself to keep going. Nevertheless, her legs felt heavy and immovable, like solid rocks.
You need to get moving.
With a weighted heart, she fixed her gaze on the beach for the last moment. Then she removed the lingering snot with a sniffle. Finally, Roxanne ventured into the dense trees and vanished under the thick canopy.